We’ve had the Chromebooks for over a year now, and I thought it’s time to look at Chrome as an actual viable daily laptop. And, surprisingly enough, it’s shone brighter than I expected. I’ve played with four models of them, and I have a Pixel being delivered today. (Verrry excited about that, too ) We now own 4 C710’s (320GB spinners), 2 C720’s (a 2GB ram w/16GB SSD, one 4GB ram upgraded to 128GB SSD from the 16GB SSD) and the 64GB LTE Pixel. I’ve played with the Samsung chromebook, and a couple HP11s, and see some of the pros and cons that haven’t really been mentioned in many places, or at least not prominently.
Truth be told, I really like the “cheap” factor of the CBooks, and as a Linux junkie, I’ve made a living taking systems that would be considered obsolete and making them not just usable, but productive. I take pride doing things “on the cheap”. Many *nixers have two or three philosophies when given a task – they ask the following questions of themselves:
- How would I do this task if my job security depended on it? (AKA the “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” philosophy.)
- How would I do it for myself? (AKA the “how cheap can I possibly do this” philosophy.)
- And occasionally : How would I do this for myself if money were no object? (AKA the “how do I *REALLY* want to do this?” philosophy.
That last one is usually accompanied by thoughts of bikini clad women handing us drinks as we sit in a lounge chair somewhere on the coast of a tropical island we now own, complete with 10GB satellite uplink, thanks to the $2.6 billion we just won from 3 consecutive lottery drawings….YMMV.
At any rate, the Chromebooks fall neatly into the second category. And how. The 4 C710’s and the 2GB C720 all set me back $199 US. That’s 5 lappy’s for under a thou. Combined. Not freekin’ bad. The 4GB 720 was $249, and I dropped $90 to upgrade the disk. I also dropped another $80 to double the ram in all of those C710’s (Thanks, Amazon!) So six machines for ~ $1400.
Now, the down side to that: those all run ChromeOS.
ChromeOS is essentially the Chrome Browser, and the Chromebook is essential a laptop hardcoded to run ONLY the Chrome Browser. That means you can’t run Office, or Skyrim, or Photoshop, or whatever. AT ALL. Ever. Now, that’s not *entirely* true. You can run Chrome Remote Desktop, and use a server session, from within Chrome, but that requires a.) you actually have a server/session to connect to, and b.) some form of internet/intranet to connect to it from. Most people do NOT have a server farm in their garage hosting VM’s. [ NB: I am not most, people, but that’s beside the point. ]
Anywho, the issue comes to the #2 philosophy – how can I make this ridiculously cheap hardware do real computing? The internets have provided, and there was much rejoicing.
Chrubuntu is our Scotty: it’s essentially a script that automates installing Ubuntu on to these wee bonnie lasses. The hardware itself is a full x86_64 processor, with at least 2GB ram. The same as what’s in Aspire boxes running Windows 7. (not particularly well, mind, but still…)
A dual core 1.5Ghz Celeron with 2GB ram is MORE than enough to handle Ubuntu, though. So each and every one of these boxes were loaded up with ‘buntu. More on the details to come, but this is a starting point. Up next is a full run down of all the pro’s and cons of each of these machines.
First up the C710.
*Bootnote – These were written over a year ago (May 2014), and I’m just now getting around to publishing them.